Amber Alert

A World Without Love

Some 100 million prescriptions for antidepressants are written annually in the United States. Because these drugs are becoming generic, they will soon be widely used worldwide as well. Many are SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These drugs raise levels of serotonin in brain -- a good idea when you are horribly depressed. These drugs blunt the emotions, curb obsessive thinking and help you sleep.

But serotonin enhancers also suppress the dopamine system in the brain and dopamine circuits become super active when you feel intense romantic love. So, connecting the dots, I hypothesize that when you take these drugs, you can jeopardize your ability to fall in love and/or stay in love.

This apparently stimulated the following letter from a medical doctor in Texas: “After two bouts of depression in ten years, my therapist recommended I stay on serotonin-enhancing antidepressants indefinitely. As appreciative as I was to have regained my health, I found that my usual enthusiasm for life was replaced with blandness. My romantic feelings for my wife declined drastically. With the approval of my therapist, I gradually discontinued my medication. My enthusiasm returned and our romance is now as strong as ever. I am prepared to deal with another bout of depression if need be, but in my case the long-term side effects of antidepressants render them off limits.”
I can’t tell you how many people have emailed me similar stories.

Some people are chronically and severely depressed. They may need to take one of these drugs for life. I am not trying to minimize their path to sanity and comfort. Many “normal” folks are taking these drugs for reasons of temporary malaise and then continuing to use them after the depression has lifted. These are the people that concern me. We all know these drugs cripple your sex drive (in 73% of users). But humanity has inherited other brain systems for reproduction as well, among them the neural mechanism for romantic love. And these men and women may be jeopardizing this brain system too.

What is a world without love? If patterns of human love subtly change, all sorts of social and political atrocities can escalate.

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